If you're a long-term holder of Adobe Systems
But what lies ahead? If the fourth quarter is any indication, there's still ample reason to expect good things from this software company.
Sales in the quarter climbed 19%, and that includes no revenue from the recently closed Macromedia acquisition. The operating margin expanded nicely, and operating income rose by about 31%. While the company did report net earnings on both a generally accepted accounting principles basis and a non-GAAP basis, I don't believe the difference between the two is especially significant in this case -- growth was about 38% in the former case and 37% in the latter.
Adobe also happens to be a company that generates an obscene amount of free cash flow -- and I mean that in the nicest possible sense. I calculate free cash flow for the year as coming out to a bit more than $681 million, or more than one-third of revenue. Put that into historic context, and you have a company that has grown its free cash flow and structural free cash flow at 10-year compound rates in the high teens. And that's all while competing with the likes of Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation Microsoft
Are there reasons to be a little concerned? Sure. Microsoft wants to move in on Adobe's Acrobat business, and Apple would like to take away Photoshop's market share. What's more, I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of small start-ups with their own ambitions. And at the same time, we don't yet know how well Adobe management will do with Macromedia products like Breeze against the likes of WebEx
And then there's also the matter of price. Adobe has an excellent record of growth and an enviable track record with returns on invested capital. That said, I'm not sure the shares are a great bargain. You Adobe fans shouldn't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that the stock is overpriced per se but rather that I don't see it as being particularly cheap -- and I'm a big fan of buying stocks on the cheap.
Still, if Adobe can leverage the Macromedia acquisition properly and keep up a steady stream of great new products, I wouldn't be the least surprised to see more acrobatic feats from this software company in the years to come.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).